First DriveNew convenience and safety gadgets, plus a great new TSI engine, help keep the Polo close to the top of the class
First DriveClever tech makes the Polo more economical, cleaner and safer, while new engines offer greater refinement but no more driving involvement
What is it?
This is the less powerful of the two 1.6-litre four-cylinder diesel versions of the latest Volkswagen Polo, with 74bhp and 144lb ft of torque. It’s the most frugal Polo available until the 1.2-litre three-cylinder BlueMotion version arrives. With a combined fuel economy figure of 65.7mpg and a CO2 output of 112g/km, the Polo 1.6 TDI is on a par with the Ford Fiesta 1.6 TDCi, making it one of the most fuel-efficient cars in its class.
What’s it like?
As we discovered during our original drive in late May, the latest Polo is very much a downsized Golf. It looks like a Mk6 Golf both inside and out (though its exterior styling is quite bland) and it moves the game on in terms of perceived quality, ride comfort and isolation from wind and road noise in this class; in many ways it really does feel like a much bigger, more expensive car.
However, the 1.6-litre diesel engine doesn’t suit the Polo especially well. In such an otherwise quiet and smooth environment the engine sounds and feels startlingly gruff, only becoming less intrusive at a steady cruise.
Work the five-speed manual gearbox a bit and the Polo is brisk enough, but like many small diesel engines it’s got a massive hole in its power delivery if it’s caught off boost at low revs, which makes it frustrating to drive around town.
We can’t help but think that one of the small petrol engines - especially the forthcoming 1.2 TSI turbo unit we sampled at the launch in Sardinia in May - would be much more in keeping with the Polo’s refined character, even more so when attached to a DSG gearbox.
Compared with the Fiesta’s funky cabin, the Polo’s seems very grown-up and conservative, to the point of being dull. The dashboard, steering wheel and other controls all reek of quality, but look around the rest of the cabin and it’s very plain and unexciting. There’s really nothing wrong with it, but it’s a far cry from the bold look of the Fiesta.
Should I buy one?
There’s a lot to like about the latest Polo, from the quality of its interior to its supple ride and refinement, and the diesel engine is impressively frugal, but we suspect the Polo isn’t being shown in its best light with such a gruff powerplant under the bonnet.
A smoother, quieter petrol engine would no doubt suit the Polo’s grown-up character much better.
But the Polo’s biggest obstacle is still the Fiesta, which in diesel form is just as economical (slightly more so, in fact) while being far more rewarding to drive and more interesting to look at. The Polo may be a downsized Golf, but it could be too mature for its own good.